Growing tasteful turf

Boulder gluten-free pioneer tackles problem of toxic home lawn care

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Courtesy of Sunday Lawn Care

When it came to his own backyard, Coulter Lewis went back to an old mantra: You have to meet people where they are, not where you wish they were, otherwise you never connect in a way that makes a difference. 

That’s the lesson he learned when his wife, Kristy Lewis, launched Boulder’s Quinn Snacks, made with simple, organic, non-GMO ingredients. 

When the couple bought their first home in Boulder, Coulter Lewis was faced with bringing that environmentally friendly and sustainable ethos to his lawn care. 

“I went to a home supply store and looked at the bags and bags of fertilizers and pesticides in the lawn and garden department. It smelled so toxic,” he says. “I thought, ‘This is crazy.’”  

But when Lewis investigated existing natural and organic lawn treatments there was just one problem: They simply didn’t work as well as conventional lawn care products, he says.

At the mention of the “L” word, many loud, local voices can be heard equating lawns with all manner of environmental ill and social irresponsibility. Why not xeriscape or put in native plants or a vegetable garden instead of rampant fescue? 

While that may be the answer for many, some people will always have lawns, Lewis says. 

“Lawns weren’t going away so we decided to figure out how to do it better,” he says. 

That decision sparked a lot of research and the launching in April of Sunday, a new Boulder-based lawn care brand. 

“When it comes to sustainability, the property care industry is years behind the food industry. Our current practices are actively harmful,” Lewis says. The need seems urgent because of the scale of the dilemma. Covering about 40 million acres of the U.S., lawns would be the third largest American crop if they were harvested, according to Lewis. He adds that lawns cover 10 times more area than all U.S. organic farms combined and are saturated with an average of 10 times more pesticides per acre than large-scale industrial farms. 

There are many Boulder County lawn service companies that provide organic, natural and pesticide-free lawn care, and there are other organic lawn care products on the market. The most prominent is the recently introduced Miracle-Gro Performance Organics line, which boasts “… results on par with — or better than — conventional Miracle-Gro products,” according to the company. 

But Sunday’s lawn care products are sold directly to consumers and customized for each location.

 “We collect U.S. soil data from that area and look at the climate history. After you sign up we get an aerial photo of the property and do lab tests on soil samples,” Lewis says. 

Like one of those boxed meal plans that show up on your porch, Sunday supplies tailored lawn nutrition seasonally that is safe for humans and pets. The products come in liquid form, are shipped to the homeowner and can be applied using a hose. 

The Sunday lawn food uses an organic extract broken down from produce farming waste. It’s 25 percent organic matter including molasses (which feeds healthy bacteria) and kelp extract to help the lawn deal with heat and drought.  

However, Sunday can’t label itself as organic because of one critical ingredient: synthetically produced urea, a nitrogenous compound common in fertilizers. It’s a compromise Lewis was willing to make in order to guarantee that the product will grow a greener lawn.

“Urea is incredibly effective at lawn growth and much less toxic than the same amount of table salt. It’s safe but it is synthetically produced and not organic,” Lewis says.  

According to Lewis, the products are only the start of Sunday’s lawn services. “We have an ongoing relationship with the client, and we hear back in real time. They send us photos to show how the products are working. We get the feedback and tweak the treatment,” he says. 

The feedback goes both ways. Lawn treatments don’t work effectively unless the lawn owner follows best practices when it comes to seed choice, aeration, mowing and watering. 

Lewis says that when Sunday’s liquid treatments are precisely applied there are also few problems with runoff. Sunday’s products and services help homeowners reduce uncertainty about how much of a treatment to apply and avoid over-application. 

When it comes to controlling weeds and pests, Lewis says your lawn should not end up covered with those scary yellow pesticide warning flags. 

 “Why put pounds of chemicals outside your front door to kill a couple of dandelions?”    

RESOURCES: 

• Sunday provides free lawn care information like “How to De-thatch a Lawn” at its blog site: blog.getsunday.com

• The Colorado State University Extension Service also offers extensive free information on maintaining a healthier lawn: csuturf.agsci.colostate.edu/resources/lawn-care